by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Ten thousand marchers turned out for Seattle's annual Martin Luther King Day march and rally on January 16, one of the largest marches in the event's 35-year history.
The previous day, January 15, 2,000 people packed Westlake Park for a rally to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). It was the second-largest health care rally in the country - only the one in Warren, Michigan, featuring Bernie Sanders drew more people.
The big numbers were motivated in large part by dread of the incoming Trump regime and anger at the prospect of a government run by billionaires slashing the social safety net.
Inauguration Day, January 20, and the following day, January 21, will also see massive protests.
The January 15 health care rally was part of a national day of action called by Sanders and his ongoing Our Revolution campaign. The Seattle event featured newly elected Rep. Pramila Jayapal and a number of health care providers and recipients.
Speakers included Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775 President David Rolf, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) President Robby Stern, and Sea Mar Community Health Centers' Dr. Julian Perez.
An estimated 750,000 people in Washington would lose health insurance if the ACA is repealed.
The Martin Luther King Day event featured keynote speaker Rob Sims, former King County executive and Deputy Secretary of HUD during President Obama's first term. Sims gave a rousing speech to cheers from the huge crowd packed into the Garfield High School gym.
Rep. Jayapal and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray also spoke at Garfield, with Murray promising to defy the Trump administration and continue Seattle's tradition as a safe city for immigrants and other marginalized groups.
'Our city will remain diligent in dismantling structural barriers and ending racial disparities in employment, education, and the criminal justice system,' Murray said in a Martin Luther King Day statement.
'We are addressing disparities in employment and education through the Youth Employment Program and the My Brother's Keeper mentoring program; decreasing youth detention and violence through investments in programs like King County's Family Intervention and Restorative Services; and ending racial bias in policing and fully training officers in de-escalation techniques.
'As we say goodbye to a presidency absolutely committed to civil rights, criminal justice reform, and equity for all people throughout this country, we must remain united against the rhetoric and actions that seek to undermine our nation's values.'
Protests expected to greet Trump inauguration
Inauguration Day, January 20, will be the occasion for nationwide protests against Trump. In Seattle, several events are planned.
Students are expected to walk out of most, if not all, Seattle high schools. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant called on the Seattle School District to commit in advance not to pursue disciplinary procedures against students who participate, but district officials were noncommittal.
At 1:00 p.m. on January 20, the immigrant rights group El Comité will sponsor a rally at Judkins Park, followed by a 2:30 p.m. march to Westlake Park.
'The effect of the 2016 electoral campaign, and specifically the Trump candidacy, has led to an uptick in harassment, xenophobia, and violence,' El Comité says on its website.
'It is also clear that this administration has shown a predilection toward neo-fascist policy and has shown favor for hard-right adherents, such as Jeff Sessions, among others. As workers, as community members, we invite all our sisters and brothers in labor, faith, and social justice to join us once again.'
El Comité plans a 4:00 p.m. rally at Westlake, and then their action will merge into the 5:00 p.m. 'Resist Trump: Occupy Inauguration' event organized by City Councilmember Sawant. The Seattle rally corresponds to the massive Occupy Inauguration event called for Washington DC.
The next day, January 21, the Seattle Womxn's March will also take off from Judkins Park at 10:00 a.m. The Seattle march is in solidarity with the national Women's March taking place the same day in DC.
Seattle organizers said they added the 'x' to emphasize 'intersectionality within our movement' and bring 'people of all gender identities, ethnicities, ages, abilities, religions, and sexual orientations' into action.
'In response to the election many of us have felt scared, angry, or sad, but most importantly, this election has ignited the fire in many of us to stand up for human rights and get involved in our community,' Womxn's March organizers wrote on their website.
'We recognize that this is a continuation of the work marginalized groups have been fighting for decades, and this march will serve as a catalyst for people to get more involved with those communities. It is our goal to provide the resources necessary for people to connect with one another, become accomplices, and work towards equity and social justice in this country.'
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